Contemporary Society, Rules Everywhere, and Forced Disobedience

Everywhere we go, a barrage of rules bombards us from every direction.

Yet, these rules have little affect beyond altering a kind of everyday cultural geography and potentially creating a sense of unease or frustration in people.

As things are, these rules are often unenforceable or not enforced. Some of them are outside the scope of this structuralist binary, per se, because they are so absurd.

For instance, at the post office they have a sign that says, “turn off cell phones before approaching the counter.” This is a ridiculous order. Granted, they likely mean, “don’t talk on your cell phone while at the counter,” but that is not what the sign says. Such forced gaps between rules and realities help add to contemporary cultural discourses that disregard all notions of authority. Think of the trouble it would cause (and the delay in waiting on customers!), if people actually turned their phones off. 

Likewise, I teach in classrooms that say “no food or drink allowed.” Virtually every single student and professor has some kind of drink with them, if not a snack or something. People require food and drink! Such a rule is clearly not followed, and it is not enforced. Probably most don’t even notice these signs.

In both cases, what would enforcement look like? Just use your imagination on that one. The results would not be pretty.

In Lake Jackson, there are signs on public entrances, as required by law, that say no smoking within x number of feet. (I think it’s 100.) Yet, these laws are not enforced, and it’s nothing to see law enforcement breaking these laws!

Additionally, take the “speed limit.” People have gotten to where they speed so often that it is actually more dangerous to follow the rules. 

I find it very interesting that society has developed so many rules, rules that are not enforced and can’t or shouldn’t be enforced.

Laws, rules, regulations should always be realistic and have some kind of actual “reward” or “punishment” attached, if we want these codes of social behavior to actually having social traction. Likewise, laws are always an ever-developing, ever-changing social contract with society. Enforcement, of course, various according to a person’s intersectionalities.

Why do we have such a stronger desire for rules that no one obeys? 

Andrew Joseph Pegoda